While barrel-aging has established itself as a tried and true way for brewers to experiment in the brewery, sour beers are really having a moment right now. In recent years, many breweries across the state have expanded to include sour programs, which is no small feat considering the need to invest in isolated systems that guard against cross-contamination. But the people are demanding the funky stuff, and Florida brewers are delivering!
For the second year in a row, Jacksonville will play host to the Florida Brewers Guild Barrel-Aged, Sour, and Cider Festival, a celebration of the biggest, wildest beers brewed in the Sunshine State. Last year’s event closed out Jax Beer Week featuring the funkiest offerings from 23 different Florida breweries and raised around $8,000 for the organization whose purpose is to preserve the rights and interests of craft brewers in the state. This year, with Intuition’s new facility as the venue, the organization expects even more breweries to sign on and hopes to top last year’s fundraising efforts.
While beer fests are certainly nothing new, niche festivals catering to specific styles, processes, and ingredients are on the rise. Look at any calendar of events and you’re sure to find more than a couple generic beer fests as organizers continue to recognize and capitalize on craft beer’s growing popularity. While these approachable (and always fun) events are great for craft beer novices, the true believers can get a little burnt out on the same old show, and the brewers themselves are no exception.
Breweries tend to send their sales reps to most festivals, but this particular event brings out the brewers and owners themselves. “Giving brewers a theme gives everyone something to work with and gets them excited about it,” says Melissa White, the event’s organizer and Executive Director of the Florida Brewers Guild. A niche festival such as this one puts the emphasis on experience over attendance, attracting a smaller but far more engaged audience of craft beer lovers. The size of the festival better facilitates a dialog between brewer and attendee, giving beer geeks the opportunity to learn about the process of brewing these more complex beers.
New to the festival this year is the inclusion of ciders. Once dismissed by the craft beer community, ciders are experiencing a renaissance of their own with new producers entering the market whose focus on craft, process, and ingredients are able to elevate the beverage beyond the cloyingly sweet beer-alternatives of the last decade or so.